This post is from June 30, 2011. Look at Bel, ready to open doors and take on new challenges…
Chapter Six of Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky is called Taking On Challenges, and the topic was very meaningful to me this week.
Although we have a blessed and relatively low-stress life, we also ride a roller coaster of emotions on any given day. Sometimes I see blogs or web-sites about families and parenting, and I let myself believe that other families are somehow happier, less stressed, and more balanced. My rational brain knows that it’s simply not true, and that every family experiences a full range of emotions, sometimes within 5 or 10 minutes. The picture perfect snapshots aren’t always true representations of the complexity of being alive.
I hope that my own writing here on this blog doesn’t gloss over that fact. Every day, whether it’s during my work year or when I’m home with the kids full time, I experience great joy, but also frustration, sadness, boredom, and sometimes anger.
A certain amount of stress is a normal part of life, and Galinsky writes about the importance of being honest with children about that reality. If we pretend that we don’t experience a full range of emotions, we’re doing them a disservice. We also need to give kids tools to productively work through their own emotions, which includes a lot of modeling on the part of parents and teachers.
Galinsky addresses important factors that affect how children take on challenges and stress, including the child’s temperament and parenting styles. These factors can play off of each other in ways that benefit the child, or the interaction can swerve in a less positive direction. For example, if a child is naturally sensitive or reactive (the temperament he was born with), and the parent reacts to the child’s reactions in a way that is either alarmist or intrusive (p.276), the child will struggle more with his own sensitivity.
I mention this example specifically, because it’s an area where I want to improve. I’d say that both of my kids are somewhat sensitive, and I know that I sometimes react to their distress in an alarmist way, particularly when I’m also stressed or tired. As I wrote above, I know that I can’t (and shouldn’t) aim to be ‘perfect’ in my reactions to them, but it’s something I want to be more aware of, so that I can start giving them better tools for reacting to the challenges and stresses that they’ll inevitably face in the world.
While all of Galinsky’s suggestions at the end of the chapter are great, I’m focusing on the following this week:
Suggestion 1: Manage your own stress (for me, exercise and sleep are huge priorities)
Suggestion 2: Turn to others who can help you manage your own stresses
Suggestion 3: Take time for yourself
What do you do to manage your own stress? What do you do to help your children manage stress and take on challenges?